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Like Butta!!- Apple Butter

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Here’s the situation: my partner, Kevin, and I  would buy a three to five pound bag of apples for our weekly healthy snack and sometimes we forget that we bought the apples in the first place!  The apples would sit and after two weeks would turn brown and mushy or dehydrate into miniture shrunken head versions of their previous glory and would look just sad and forlorn.  Then I suddenly remembered about apple butter!!  This would be a great way to use whatever apples that are in good shape that were forgotten.  “What is apple butter?”  I remember asking the first time I had it, it is just mashed apples, spiced and cooked down to a thicker consistency.  “Is there butter in it?”, no, butter is not used to make it, but the word butter is used to describe the spreadability of the end product- “Like Butta!!!”

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (roughly 14 medium)
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

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Preparation:

  1. In a large 8-10 quart sauce pot, combine apples and cider, bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove apples and purée in a blender in batches with some of the liquid. In the last batch, add sugar and spices. (Alternatively, press apples through a food mill or sieve and return pulp back into pot and then and sugar and spices.).
  3. Return all puréed mixture to pot and bring back to boiling then reduce heat to lowest setting possible. Cook uncovered, over very low heat for 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring often.  If the apple butter is thicker than desired add a little bit of apple cider or water and stir.  Ladle hot apple butter into hot, sterilized canning jars if desired.  Spread over your favorite bread or pastry.

Notes:

  • If you are using apples other than Granny Smiths, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to balance the sweetness.
  • I cooked the apple butter down to a jelly/ thin paste so that there is even more flavor and it makes the butter more spreadable. If you want a more classic apple butter, pass it through a sieve for a somewhat chunkier consistency and change the cooking time to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Don’t be alarmed!! As the apples cook down and is mixed with the cinnamon, the sugars will caramelize and the mixture will turn a reddish brown color.

Tex-Mex Salisbury Steak (from America’s Test Kitchen)

Honestly, I have never made Salisbury steak before and I didn’t know what to expect, I was delightfully surprised!  This is not your grade-school teddy bear shaped Salisbury steak nor your frozen dinner Salisbury steak covered in a salty flavorless sauce of yore, this version has a bounty of wonderful flavors with an added kick of spice to your taste buds.  Another added bonus was the speed, this recipe was finished in just under an hour, about 48 minutes to be exact, preparation and all; if you’re in a hurry, this would be the one for you to make.  I served this with some cilantro rice, which is basically 1 1/2 cup cilantro thrown in the food processor with one cup of the water or broth to be used with the rice and then add the rest of the water or broth to your rice as needed.  This would also be wonderful with some mashed potatoes, roasted mashed roots, or mashed cauliflower.

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Ingredients

  •   4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, torn into rough pieces
  •   2 tablespoons vegetable oil (like canola)
  •   1 large onion, sliced thin (I sliced it in half vertically and then made thin half moon slices)
  •   3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced thin lengthwise
  •   1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  •   salt and pepper
  •   1 1/2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  •   1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  •   1/4 cup whole milk
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •   1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

Preparation

  1. Pulse tortillas in a food processor until coarsely ground, then transfer to a large bowl.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, jalapeños, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 pepper.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.   Transfer half of mixture to a small bowl and set aside.  Transfer the other half to the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, milk, and chopped onion-jalapeno mixture to bowl with processed tortillas and gently mix until combined.  Divide beef mixture into 4 equal portions and gently shape mixture into four 1/2 inch thick oval patties (pat the steaks down if necessary).  Heat remaining oil in empty skillet over medium high heat until just smoking.  Cook patties until well browned, 3-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate.
  3. Add reserved onion mixture and flour to skillet and cook until four is golden and fragrant about 1 minute.  Slowly stir in broth, draping up any browned bits, and bring to simmer.  Return patties to skillet, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 4 minutes.  Remove lid and cook until patties are cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened, 4-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Curried Chicken Chickpea Soup

Just imagine coming home on a cold day to the aroma of curry wafting about the house from this Indian inspired soup.  It makes me want to take a deep breath, let it go and say, ” Ahhhhh….” The flavors are warm without being spicy; just enough to take your mind off the biting wind.  Add some bread with a crunchy crust like a baguette or a sour dough and this would be a complete meal, but I prefer to enjoy this by itself.  Originally, this recipe was vegetarian and had a shortcut: (omit the chicken) microwave all the ingredients through the garlic and then add everything to the slow cooker.   In the essence of time you could do this, however, I feel it is important to bring out the aromatics in the curry and blossom the flavors in the onion and garlic in a pan prior, otherwise you would miss out on that flavor profile in the final outcome.

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Ingredients:

  •   2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •   2 boneless skinless chicken breasts- cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  •   1/8 teaspoons salt
  •   2 onions, minced
  •   2 tablespoons tomato paste
  •   5 teaspoons curry powder
  •   1 1/2 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
  •   2 garlic cloves, minced
  •   6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  •   2  (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  •   2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  •   2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  •   1 cup frozen peas
  •   1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  •   salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add chicken pieces and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Brown chicken on all sides, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove chicken to separate bowl.  Discard any juices or leftover rendered fat.
  2. Heat another 1 tablespoon olive the same non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add onions and curry powder cook until onions are softened and curry is fragrant-3 minutes.  Add garlic, tomato paste, and  ginger and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in about 1/2 cup of broth, stir and loosen bits on bottom pan; pour mixture into the slow cooker.  Add the rest of broth, chickpeas, carrots, and chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours on low.
  4. Stir in zucchini and peas cover and cook on high until zucchini is tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Super Bowl Pulled Beef Brisket with Beer

It is the greatest compliment when a friend requests a repeat of a meal that you’ve cooked before and this was the case for Super Bowl XLVIII.  This was a nice change in place of wings or burgers.  The first time I made this was when we were invited to a raft up and I suggested making this meal.  The day of the raft up came and I show up with a crock-pot not knowing how big the boat was going to be or even if there was going to be an outlet to plug the crock-pot!  For ease of service, the meat was pulled so that guests can pile as much as they want onto buns or crusty rolls, but you can slice it as well.

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Ingredients

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  • 1 (3-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped parsnip (about 2)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer

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Preparation

  1. Rub brisket with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with canola oil and add brisket to pan; cook 10 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove brisket from the pan.
  2. Add 1/4 cup water to pan, stirring to loosen browned bits;  Add onion and parsnips; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Place onion mixture, vinegar, bay leaf, and beer in a large electric slow cooker. Place brisket on top of onion mixture. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Discard bay leaf. Remove brisket and using two forks, shred the meat.  Return shredded meat to slow cooker and stir once or twice.  Serve with sauce and some crusty bread.

Rotini and Meatballs

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If you have never made homemade meatballs in marina sauce, you should definitely give it a try, you will be pleased with the results!  This meal is hearty and brings back memories of making spaghetti for my parents whenever they craved something American to eat.  This is a recipe from Cooking Light that I adjusted because I felt the original lacked a bit of flavor.  It also allowed me to cheat a little; the tomato paste with pesto and the canned tomatoes with basil added so much flavor that I didn’t need to add much else to the sauce.  I used rotini pasta because I felt the shape would gather more scrumptious sauce, but you can substitute it with spaghetti. Oh, if you can find white basaltic, it is worth it, but apple cider vinegar will work in a pinch.

Ingredients

 
 Sauce:
  •   2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •   1 cup finely chopped onion
  •   3 garlic cloves, minced
  •   2 tablespoons tomato paste with pesto ( like Contadina)
  •   1/2 teaspoon salt
  •   1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
  •   2  (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes with basil, undrained and chopped
  •   1 tblespoon apple cider vinegar or white balsalmic vinegar

 

 

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Meatballs:

  • 1 (1-ounce) slice white bread
  • 3 (4-ounce) links mild turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground sirloin

Remaining ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound hot cooked rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Fresh parsley sprigs (optional)

Preparation

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  1. To prepare sauce, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 cup onion; sauté for 3 minutes. Add 3 garlic cloves, and sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and broth. Cook 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and vinegar. Reduce heat, and simmer 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Preheat broiler.
  3. To prepare meatballs, place bread in a food processor, and process until fine crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Combine the breadcrumbs, sausage, 1/2 cup onion, and next 8 ingredients (through sirloin) in a bowl. With wet hands, shape sirloin mixture into 32 meatballs. Place meatballs on a broiler pan. Broil 15 minutes or until done. Add meatballs to sauce; simmer 15 minutes. . Serve over rotini pasta sprinkled with basil, parsley, and cheese. Serves 8

Mexican Hot Chocolate, Anyone?

So the weather in FL dropped to the low 40’s and I thought, what a great time for hot chocolate!  It just happened to coincide with our friends coming over for dinner so I decided to give them a chocolatey treat.  I have to admit that I accidentally grabbed the dark chocolate and the result was too rich, this version is decidedly better!  Though the recipe says the whipped cream is optional, add it; it adds a layer of flavor reminiscent of a light marshmallow and who doesn’t love a whipped cream mustache?

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Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup water
1/3 C honey
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups 2% reduced fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bottle fat free whipped topping (optional)
pinch ground Cinnamon for garnish (optional)
pinch of nutmeg

Preparation:

In a large, heavy, saucepan, toast cinnamon and nutmeg over medium high heat for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add next 4 ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low to low and stir in milk and honey. Cook for 13 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly; do not allow to boil. Yield: 5 servings Optionally top each cup with whipped cream and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg.

Maple BBQ Wings

We have a group of friends that get together and have a game night where we play charades or catch phrase.  It is a potluck so everyone brings a dish and there is always too much food and drink, but I’d rather have too much food and drink than not enough!  This night I was in a panic!  I didn’t know what to make, but I had plenty of maple syrup that was a result of a sale at the grocery store, and something nagged at me… then a light bulb came on and this recipe floated up from the dark recesses of my memory.  I had all the ingredients except for the chicken so it would be a short trip to the store and it didn’t take much time to cook at all!  I have to be honest; I have never made wings before and I had some serious doubts about this recipe, but everyone loved it!!

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Ingredients

1 package (5 pounds) frozen wingettes or 5 pounds chicken wings each cut into 2 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Maple BBQ Sauce:

2 Cup Ketchup
1 Cup Maple Syrup
12 tablespoons cider vinegar

Preparation

1.   Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place wing pieces in a large deep roasting pan and sprinkle with salt- no need to thaw.  Bake at 425 for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until cooked through and meat begins to pull away from the ends.  Remove pan to a wire rack.  Using tongs, place wings onto jelly roll pans, shaking off any excess fat.
2.   Heat oven to broil.  Stir together ingredients for the maple BBQ sauce, divide sauce in half.  Brush enough sauce onto wings to coat.  Broil 8 minutes or until crispy.  Remove, turn wings over, brush with more sauce.  Broil for another 8 minutes.  Remove and let cool briefly, 1 minute.  Boil any leftover sauce for 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve wings immediately with maple sauce on the side.

Alternatively let cool completely and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  To serve, uncover, reheat at 350 degrees, turning occasionally for 20 minutes or until hot; serve with reheated maple sauce.

Slow Cooker Roasted Red Pepper and Bean Chili

Winter makes me want three things: soups, stews, and chili!  Ok, chili is technically a stew, but some would argue that it could stand on its own as a type of culinary perfection.  I love this recipe because you can just put the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it, go to work, and come home to a steaming bowl of chili after coming in from the cold.  Boy is it cold tonight! The current temperature is 50 degrees and its going to drop down to low 30’s! Chilly enough for this chili?  I think so!

A funny thing happened while I was making the chili:  I dropped one of the cubes of meat and had to chase one of our terrier mixes around the house in an attempt to stop her from eating it.  Because of this I ended up over processing the meat, oh well, it didn’t affect the taste.

Roasted Pepper and Bean Chili

Ingredients

12 oz lean beef top round, cut into chunks
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell pepper
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper (optional), seeds removed and finely chopped
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 tablespoons chili
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 14 1/2 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 10oz can dived tomatoes
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1 15oz can black beans, drained

Preparation

1. Pulse beef in food processor until coarsely ground. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat; cook beef, onions and garlic until browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to 4-quart or larger slow cooker.
2. Set the oven to broil. Cut peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slash edges so that the peppers will lay flat. Place pepper skin side up on on a baking sheet. Broil The peppers until blackened, about 15 minutes. Seal peppers in a plastic food bag and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Remove peppers and rub the skin from the peppers and chop them.
3. Add peppers and remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours on high for 4-5 hours.

Notes:

Leave a couple of serrano seeds when you chop the serrano peppers for added heat.

Oatmeal Banana Nut Cookies- A Healthy Cookie!… WHAAAA?

We got invited at the last minute to a cookie exchange party this year and I was in a panic. I looked at the schedule and found that between dragon boat practice in the morning and dragon boat caroling in the evening, I had about five hours to choose a cookie and bake it. I am my own worse enemy since I decided to take a quick nap after running to the store to get the ingredients and only had one hour left to assemble and bake! I succeeded in making the cookies by the skin of my teeth, and ran to go caroling.

I chose this recipe because I wanted to use the over ripe bananas that both Kevin and I had forgotten about; it was an added bonus when I scanned the recipe and found that it was quick, easy and (gasp!) healthy! Yes, healthy- no butter, flour, eggs or dairy and I added a scant amount of brown sugar for some sweetness.

Oatmeal Banana Nut Cookies

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked quick cooking oats
1 cup currants or raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Combine banana, oil, and vanilla; stir well. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Let stand 15 minutes.
3. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

Notes

The recipe originally called for regular oats, but I used quick cooking oats for a cookie that is more moist. I replaced the raisins with currants for a bit of a fancy flare, then added one tablespoon of light brown sugar for a touch of sweetness that wasn’t called for in the original recipe.